In the picture above, Dorotej Neshovski, from the research project “Illusions of Art”  that deals with the concepts of creative spontaneity, artistic articulation, social inclusion, pedagogy and abstraction of the gallery-audience-artist relationship, 2019.

Article by Yane Calovski / Jovanka Popova

 The independent art and culture scene in North Macedonia, including the creative industries, is a small but vibrant scene that traces the first steps and opportunities in terms of post-secondary level educational/vocational and apprentice training programs. As part of the Partnership for Creative Apprenticeships (P4CA) project Press to Exit Project Space developed a program that applies new models to support the delivery of Quality and Effective Apprenticeships in the Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI), by building the skills of apprenticeship coaches and In-House Company trainers.

As part of our project we are speaking with various individuals in the CCI sector. We have traced three innovative individuals working in the art and culture field that are redefining the role of the Apprentice Coach. In this article we would like to introduce them and their work as well as highlight parts of our conversation and offer a definition of what is considered to be the Apprentice Coach in the creative cultural sector in North Macedonia today.

Our first interviewee is Dorotej Neshovski (Skopje 1989), a visual artist and an arts educator. He graduated from the Department of Sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Skopje in 2012. As one of the founders of the art group SEE, established in 2012, he is an active member and participant in all the projects of this group. He has exhibited at numerous group exhibitions in Macedonia and abroad. He took part in the 6th International Symposium “Curating Exchange: Spaces, Functions, Fictions and Other Commons” organized by press to exit project space, where he presented his performative lecture “Fictions and the Spaces I Inhabit” addressing the array of potential readings into the pubic concepts of ephemeral versus permanent, public versus institutional, and virtual versus physical space while creating a so-called “invisible works.”He is author of the “Art is not what you want” (Private Print, Skopje, 2017) an art book based on his drawing practice in part done through the educational sessions with children.

Dorotej, can you explain your work as a pedagogue in the cultural-creative sector, working in the field of children’s artistic development and where does the interest in this work come from?

The project that I am developing involves interactive conversations with children through a series of workshops. It is a multidisciplinary project that experiments with multiple media and content, including social designers, artists, animators-3D models, architects, photographers, permaculture design, and theoretical physics in order to realize given concepts, intended for children’s education in different disciplines. I would describe myself as a free interactive mentor who tries  to establish a different communication with children in order to make them interested in art, and to involve them by playing with various topics and concepts for accepting diversity and creating empathy. In my work I have tryed to give my students the needed tools, techniques and principles of work methodology so that they can initiate conversations and creative situations among themselves in school or alternative settings.

How do you see the role of a trainer as an art pedagogue and instructor for creative work with children?

The desire to work with children, and a desire for commitment and responsibility is crucial. The mentorship role involves process of preparation of knowledge in order to be ahead of time, to establish collaborations, to be creative, to come up with ideas and techniques, to be interactive, to organize exhibitions, but above all to be a cheerful and cultural person. The mentor needs to be a good educator that every child would like to interact with, with exceptional stimulating, technical-creative skills and a most importantly to have an understanding and show kindness to the students.

Our next interviewee Jasmina Bilalovic, an actress who graduated from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Skopje in 1998 is no stranger to solidarity and kindness as an integral part of any successful educational collaboration.  Apart from her formal education and experience in acting, she has both training and experience in the field of forum theatre, educational theatre for children and youth, the so-called “art for social change” theatre, and immersive theatre. As a co-founder and head of the Association Media Artes Cultural Center – Ohrid she has been a part of the independent cultural scene in North Macedonia since 2001. In the period of 2000-2005 she was responsible for carrying out the entire MAPA (Moving Academy for Performing Arts, Amsterdam) training program in Ohrid; among other things, this collaboration resulted with the donation of MAPA’s technical theatre equipment, which, to a large extent, technically capacitated the Gligor Prlicev Ohrid Theatre, that she co-founded and was a member of its ensemble since its establishment in 2011 up until July, 2019. Currently she leads the Socio-Cultural Space Centar-Jadro in Skopje, a hybrid institution based on the model of civil-public partnership cofounded by the Jadro Association of the Independent Culture Scene and Municipality Centar of Skopje.

Jasmina, tell us a bit about your work as a mentor and in particular about the “in-house” couching you and your team provide in the frame of Centar-Jadro, and how do you define your work as a practicing artist and manager in the Creative Cultural Industry?

Through my pedagogical experience in art for social change and theatre of the oppressed practices, I have worked with many children, young people and communities. Children and youth were thus growing up through theatre; also, since a group of people working in a context of theatre represents a society on a small scale, these young participants were at the same time developing their sense of a belonging to a community. Developing participants’ individual and social skills, as well as their creativity and their level of art education were the major goals of these practices. However, young participants were also discovering and developing various personal talents and skills, including theatrical ones; Being aware of the gaps in the curriculum of formal theatre education, I initiated establishment of programs for “education permanence” for professional theatre makers, theatre students and young creative professionals.  On the other side  KSP Center Jadro program involves human capacity building in technical skills, in the framework of which KSP Centar-Jadro recruits and sends participants to the Workshop of Technical Production in the kin institution Pogon, in Zagreb Croatia.

Another mentorship initiatives at KSP Centar-Jadro are the 8-month long program “Workshop for audio-production” targeting young artists from the music scene, as well as the 9-month long program “Theatre and Integration” aimed at young performers and related to transfer of knowledge and experiences from the para-theatrical phase of work (theatrical work with communities) of Jerzy Grotowski.

Our follow up question relates the apprentice-coaching relationship and how you would defined it based on your experience in the field.

In my opinion, the apprentice coaching is a process in which the coach and apprentice can evolve their relationship of mentor-mentee (which I consider to be bi-directional, as both sides learn on the way). Similarly, like in friendship relationship, it needs time and right context to evolve.

We were similarly interested in what Dragan Hristov, a conceptual designer, founder and the creative force of LUDUS a sustainable a-gender label that makes garments from natural fabrics with minimum or no waste in the production cycle, had to say.

Dragan, you are a self taught fashion designer that got your formal education at the Academy of Fine Arts-Brera in Milan, Italy. Your label carries the latin word “Ludus” which means “game, play, trifle, jest, joke” and which perfectly defines your playful and research-based approach to his craft. How would you define your own work as a fashion designer and the founder LUDUS, a label know for actively provides aspiring designers an opportunity to apprentice in-house while also learning the social and political dimensions of the a-gender concept?

I cofounded and coordinated the project Handcrafted:mk which was dedicated to design startups based on handmade products, which also included mentoring the young designers and helping them launch their first collection. It included comprehensive help with conceptualizing the collections, material sourcing, local handmade production by artisans, branding, marketing and basic business planning.  Besides this project, I have started Slowscapes, a slow fashion and design showroom based in Skopje, which includes 7-8 local fashion, jewelry and product designers. I have assisted several of the brands realize their fashion collections by helping them with long-term fabric sourcing, finding small scale production facilities, as well as establishing price points, marketing strategies and sales during the showroom. The mentoring was also helpful in the process of establishment of my own brand as well as constitute a local scene of slow, sustainable production, which has strengthened my personal growth and the growth of my brand.

What is your opinion upon state legislation that provides opportunities for both apprentice mentors/couches and young apprentices.

Having experience in retail, I am aware of some laws regarding the payments and compensations to internships, but I am so far unaware of legislatives for apprentices and mentors as it is not an existing profession in the fashion industry in North Macedonia. Most of the coaching and mentorship is conveyed in startup accelerators and incubator programs, which often exclude design and fashion startups.

How would you define apprentice coaching in fashion industries and what tools you feel you may need to be more effective as a coach.

The apprentice coaching in the fashion industry in North Macedonia is limited to the sewing practices and production facilities, in which tailors, pattern makers and other workers are trained. Apart from this, there is a long tradition of apprenticeship in the artisanal sphere, mainly because of the handcraft and specific manufacture. I find apprentices and coaches to be a necessary element of the industry. Unfortunately, they fall into the category of unpaid and uncompensated workers. New laws about their work could really improve the overall quality of the local production and the industry itself.

In conclusion, our desk research and the conducted interviews give grounds to believe that the expectations of both trainers and trainees suggest that the apprentice training opportunities in the CCI sector are a matter of individual initiative and less a part of a sustainable state system.

Via our research we have come to the following definition of what is considered to be the Apprentice Coach (since the existing data does not necessarily provide a clear definition to identify this profession). In summary the following definition has emerged as a relevant: a qualified trainer that brings a positive outlook and pragmatic, supportive approach to developing solutions in partnership with clients, promoting life-long learning and apprenticeship programmes at all levels with a focus on investment and impact with effective quality and compliance, leadership and governance.

Apprenticeships can be conducted with artists, art historians, curators, galleries, museums, non-profits, art collectives, community organizations, art publications, and more. However, although an apprenticeship gives you a competitive edge in the fine arts world it also offers a hands-on, real-world work experience there is a no guarantee for a successful transition into a sustainable work situation, especially relevant for young creatives of all artistic fields, as well as aspiring art teachers, light and sound technicians or seamstresses. Partly this is due to lack of legislative regulation that translates in lack of substantive knowledge acquired during studies.

On the other hand, our understanding of the principles of the professional labor market and the ability to cope with this world add to our findings, also play a part in challenging the status quo and demanding better regulation for the work of both, the coaches and the apprentices.